Germany’s Largest Steelmaker Suffers 4.7 Billion Euro Loss

Tom Mihalek | AFP | Getty Images

ThyssenKrupp, Germany's top steelmaker, posted a massive 4.7 billion euro ($6.1 billion) net loss for the year as it took a painful write-down on steel mills in the United States and Brazil that it is trying to sell.

The company said late on Monday it has cut the book value of the mills, which is bundled in its Steel Americas business, to 3.9 billion euros from 7 billion because bids from potential buyers were too low.

Steel Americas is one of several businesses Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger is seeking to sell in a major overhaul to raise money for investments in ThyssenKrupp's engineering and technology businesses.

Once Steel Americas is sold, only about 30 percent of group revenue will come from steel, ThyssenKrupp said, raising the importance of its businesses making car parts, factories and elevators.

The Steel Americas plants, in which Thyssen invested about 12 billion euros over the years, had been meant to give ThyssenKrupp a foothold in the Americas, but costs for the mills ran far over budget while demand for the steel they made grew sluggish.

In the 2011/12 financial year ended September 30, Steel Americas posted an operating loss of about 1 billion euros, excluding the write-down.

Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a net loss of 985 million euros.

The ill-fated foray into the Americas cost former Chief Executive Ekkehard Schulz his job last year, and Hiesinger last week axed half of his management board, including the group steel chief Edwin Eichler.

"The Steel Americas project and the various compliance violations have not just caused immense financial damage. We have thereby also lost trust and credibility," Hiesinger said in a statement on Monday.

"With the changes on the Executive Board, the Supervisory Board has sent out a clear signal for a fresh start."

Thyssen said the sale of the business was on track and would be completed in its current financial year.

Global steelmakers like U.S. Steel and rival Nucor have been named by sources as being in the running to buy some Steel Americas assets, as have Japanese groups JFE Steel and Nippon Steel, and Brazil's CSN .

Thyssen has said a key reason that the Steel Americas project has failed was that management had based its investment decisions on assumptions and key data that were either too optimistic or later proved to be incorrect.

Due to the full-year group loss, Thyssen said it would pay no dividend for the 2011/12 fiscal year.

For the 2012/13 financial year it forecast a decline in adjusted operating profit - excluding Steel Americas and recently sold stainless steel maker Inoxum - to about 1 billion euros from 1.4 billion from a year earlier, while providing no bottom-line outlook.

It said it saw group revenue from continuing operations remaining flat this fiscal year at about 40 billion euros.

Thyssen has also said it is considering demanding compensation for the Steel Americas disaster from Schulz and other managers if it can show that they knowingly provided false information regarding the investments there.